Psalm 123 – Duck’s Instep

Psalm 123 Bible with Lily's 55 Percent Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

WARNING: Uneven Chocolate Break detected

WARNING: It’s no big deal

Today’s Chocolate:  Lily’s 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 123

Are you familiar with the expression “lower than a duck’s instep?” Probably, if you’re one of my relatives. (Both my mom’s and my dad’s sides of the family are from the South.) But in case you need an explanation, it means “super-low”–because a duck, with its flat feet, has the lowest instep you can imagine. It’s basically the opposite of being “fine as frog’s hair.” And today’s psalm is for people in a situation that is lower than a duck’s instep.

The song begins with an individual turning to God, who is enthroned above mankind, but in the second verse it gets interesting. First, the individual identifies with a group of people looking to God, a “we” with whom he sings the song. Second, he introduces a pair of analogies: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God until He is gracious to us.” (123:2). We’ve seen this word for “servant” before; it’s the Hebrew ebedwhich may also refer to slaves or attendants.  For the sake of thoroughness, I’ll note that the word for “maid” is shiphchah, which, as far as I can discern from its entry in Strong’s Concordance, is etymologically unrelated to ebed but stands as its female counterpart: a female servant or slave. Male and female alike, humanity stands in a relation of servitude to God and depends on his favor.

And if that’s an uncomfortable idea, then it’s an uncomfortable idea. Many of us would rather serve ourselves than some other master, even if the flip side of that coin is that we also become slaves to ourselves. Not everyone chooses to join in this song of humility, not everyone sings a prayer for grace, and the psalmist knows it. He observes: “Our soul is greatly filled with the scoffing of those who are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud” (123:4). The people singing this song are looked down upon by those slightly higher up, the proud, the at-ease.

He doesn’t identify why he and his companions are objects of scorn. Perhaps the arrogant are disgusted that the psalmist’s crew position themselves as servants to God, depending on his mercy. Perhaps the arrogant just think they’re better. But the fact of the matter is that the arrogant and the humble alike are created by God, contingent beings dependent on outside factors for their continued existence. God is the king of his world, while humanity are his subjects. And if these contemptuous big shots really are higher than the psalm’s humble ensemble, it’s only because they happen to be the instep of a slightly larger duck.


Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. Three-hundred sixty-six days ago, I photographed a giant chocolate heart from my discounted post-Valentines-Day stash, opened my dad’s old Bible to Romans 1, and typed up my reflections. And a leap year later, I’ve studied the role of the gospel in the gospels, read through Isaiah, enlarged my understanding of the Sabbath, and shared my thoughts on one hundred twenty-three of the Bible’s one hundred fifty Psalms. I’m not gonna lie: at times I’ve been disappointed with the blog’s performance in terms of traffic and readership. But at times like those, I’ve asked myself, “Is this thing worth doing even if no one were reading it?” And the answer is yes. Studying the Bible is without question worth it.

Thanks for coming along this far with me. Tomorrow: more chocolate and more psalms. I’m glad to have you with me on this journey.

8 thoughts on “Psalm 123 – Duck’s Instep

  1. Ebed, see Ex 20.5, is used of serving God or gods including liturgy. Early part of Jewish service is called avodah, transliteration of ebed, eved and discussed as meaning prayers from serving literal meaning. Gen 16.1ff, Hagar was a sipschah or however it is transliterated. The maid not to be coveted in Ex 20 is a different word, something like emah. sipschah is close to concubine in use but not a synonym. For what it is worth. Also check out Bob Dylan’s you gotta serve somebody on his xian slow train coming album. Dad

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________


    1. Thanks for expanding on the Hebrew, Dad. It’s easy to forget that we know the meanings of words based on their context, we learn the meanings of words based on their context, and we even define words by relating them to other words–it’s context again. To know what the word means, you’ve gotta know where it’s used. It’s a miracle communication is possible at all! ;)

      Interestingly enough, “Gotta Serve Somebody” has come up twice before on the blog. I find there’s a lot of truth to the idea that we can’t help but bow to something.


  2. Happy Anniversary!
    Thank you for blessing us with your gleanings from time spent with God.
    Thankful for you! Philippians 1.3
    Mom (of course)


  3. Happy Blog Anniversary!

    I don’t read your blog 100% of the time but I do read it often (around 3/4ths of the time?) because it’s friendly and bright whilst talking about literally the most important thing you could talk about. Keep up the good work. ^-^


  4. It’s definitely worthwhile. I only occasionally comment, mainly because I’m 315 messages behind in my email (13 days worth) in just my gmail account, so I’d rarely be relevant. But I read your emailed version faithfully, since you are faithful in sticking to it and doing it well, with sincerity.


    1. Thanks, Randy! It means a lot to hear that I’m creating something worth reading. And I can understand what it’s like to be inundated with communication–my “315 messages” are spread out over Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and more email accounts than should be possessed by any one human being. ;)


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